So how did a scottish blues band come to be playing a gig in one of Bonn’s more prominent hard rock/heavy metal venues? The answer, rather surprisingly, is whisky. Edinburgh based Blueswater were booked after Dominik Hafner got to know them during a band tour of Islay (land of Talisker, Bowmore and other wee drams of pleasure). It proved to be a lucky meeting for Bonn Blues lovers as the band put on a cracking show in front of an appreciative audience at Kult41 on Sunday.
For those who aren’t familiar with the band (that was me too until today) Blueswater can rightfully lay claim to being amongst the hardest working bands in Edinburgh. They were recently back from a US tour and only the previous night had finished playing 5 sold out shows in Germany with their ‘Queens of the Blues’ review show. You would forgive the band for maybe going through the motions at Kult41 and indeed, given the previous tour, a female singer. There was maybe a degree of clicking into the music this evening, but it was a degree of difference from being a fine blues band and later showing themselves to be the gritty and great one that they actually are.
Someone was joking before the show about a 10 pm finish: “With a Scottish band? That won’t happen” came a smiling reply. I guess these were people from out of town. The neighbours don’t like to be disturbed here in Bonn, even those with a railway track and main road nearby.
As reported, the Blues Queen part of their review (Nicole Cassandra Smit) was no longer with them, but The Blueswater are no ordinary Blues band. Their roots lie in a Fringe revue show from 2011 ‘Blues!’ that was a highly successful rollercoaster ride through Blues history, so they clearly know their BB’s from their JLH’s by heart. This year in fact, six years on and they are booked at the prestigious Edinburgh Fringe Festival for ten sets – each one different.
No shortage of material then, only a shortage of time to play it in. The music was good and well delivered from the off but gave the impression of a band with a long night of playing ahead of them and therefore gradually shifting up gears accordingly.
Felipe Schrieberg, The band’s only non-Scot, makes for a great frontman and, dare I say it, being American, makes the songs sound more ‘Chicago Blues style authentic’ whilst guitarists Jed Potts and Charlie Wild lend the grittiness of Scottish Blues. A perfect combination to my ears with the added cream on the cake of some fat and juicy harp soloing from the harmonica of Gordon Jones. Add the rolling rhythm from bassman Ewan Gibson and drummer Simon Gibb and you really could not ask for or find a better band to convey electric Blues.
Great music then, the sort that you want to immerse yourself in for hours at the end of a busy week. soaking up the rhythms, the solos and the sweat of an intimate live show. ‘Who do you love’ is pumped out with verve and they manage to put a fiery tail on the often too easily predictable Robert Johnson classic ‘Walking Blues’. it’s a number that I sometimes hear live thinking “Not that one again!” But tonight I loved it and that says something for this band – they make the old standards seem young again. Own compositions like ‘Whisky’ were also great to hear. When Schrieberg berates ‘Give me my whisky!” with angry eyes into the mike it’s so heartfelt that he even finds a glass waiting by the songs end. Wish that trick worked for me too!
BB King’s ‘How Blue can you get?’ got a soul coating to relish too. The band were by now now cruising in top-gear with John Lee Hooker’s ‘Boom Boom’, Potts and Wild shouting their ‘boom booms’ into a shared mike with great gusto and obvious relish. smiling at each other, at the audience and at the music they were creating. Sadly though it’s reaching up to 10 pm and you can almost hear the leashes straining as the band want to continue for another hour or so. The Blues Queen shows maybe had a format but tonight’s gig was whatever they wanted to play- and quite clearly they DID want to play, as much as we wanted to hear them. Time only though for Dominik to raise a glass (whiskey of course) to this excellent band and request (an all too brief) rendition of Muddy’s ‘Got My Mojo Working’. The Blueswater certainly do have their collective Mojos working, and especially in the last half hour tonight were one of the best old style electric Blues bands I’ve seen in a while.
Earlier this year I was saddened to hear of the last gigs of Edinburgh’s ‘Blues n Trouble’ a group that, as support for Robert Cray in Portsmouth, put Scotland firmly on my Blues map. It was great this evening to see a band that will keep Edinburgh’s Blues flag flying high!